Comcast, DTA’s and once again the rise of the cable box

Comcast has decided to “digitize” everything, leaving maybe only local OTA channels on the analog side of their cable plant. I have seen this coming for a while and it has been making me more frustrated as time goes on. Right now I have 4 TV’s in the house 2 of which are analog only, and 2 of which are NTSC/ATSC/ClearQAM capable. 2 weeks ago Comcast sent me a letter saying that “if you don’t have a cable box or DTA (Digital Transport Adapter) on each of  your TV’s you will cease to get the all the channels you get now on the analog side. I thought oh great here it comes, more money to the big ass Comcast to be able to continue to use my current analog tv’s.

So I went to Comcast’s “DigitalNow” web site and started reading that they would give you up to 2 DTA’s FREE in order for up to 2 TV’s to continue to receive limited/expanded basic channels. So I placed the order for 2 of them. They were supposed to be here on Monday, however when I checked UPS’ website, it showed that Comcast did not put my correct address on the shipping label and UPS couldn’t deliver the package. I called UPS and they refused to deliver it or change the address as Comcast had placed a mark on it that only they could change it. So I called Comcast and spent almost a half an hour on the phone (both wait time and talking time) trying to make them understand what they had did wrong. They finally had the light bulb moment and said she had to call me back.

She called me back and said that I had to go to UPS to pick it up. (UPS told me that they would charge them to change the address on it, so Comcast cheaps out again.) I stopped by UPS on Tuesday night to pick up the package and came home to hook them up. Well as luck would have it one is DOA and won’t sync or activate at all. I let it sit for about 2 hours before I contacted Comcast. Needless to say their online help people were useless.. Basically told me to unplug it and plug it back in and then let it sit for 45 minutes. Well I left it sit for 1440 minutes, and still does not work. So now I am going to have to take it to the local office to get a new one.

The one thing that makes me made about these little DTA’s (They are a PACE DC50X box), is that they only get the limited and expanded basic channels. When I signed up for them, it didn’t say this anywhere. I was assuming that it would be able to receive all the channels I currently get with the regular set top box and tivo. However while I was talking to the online rep, that is when I found out that they only get limited and expanded basic.

So now I was even more pissed, because I was under the assumption that I was going to be able to watch the full spectrum (minus the ondemand and hd channels) on these 2 tv’s. Well the reason why they only get limited and expanded basic is easy to understand when  you learn that these aren’t really cable boxes. They are in fact just a little QAM tuner, the same that is in most new TV’s. The only difference between it and your TV one is that all the limited and extended basic channels have the privacy flag set. ( In simplest form, these little DTA’s can receive channels that have the privacy flag set, whereas your TV “ignores” them because they are lightly encrypted.

What does this mean? Well we have went back to the 70’s and 80’s when it was required that each TV have a “cable box” because they don’t know how to tune the channels, once again making TV’s not really a TV but more of a monitor. In reality what is happening is Comcast is trying to pack so much “crap” in to the cable lines that they can no longer put filters on the cables coming in to your house to “block” channels you are not supposed to be getting. The kicker to this whole problem is I have heard that Comcast is thinking about getting rid of the limited basic tier (basicly local channels only) and making every one get the “digital starter” which is the equivalent of all the channels that these DTA’s can receive. So why the hell doesn’t Comcast just take the privacy flag off, junk these DTA’s (for those people who have TV’s with QAM tuners in them), and set the PSIP values so that the channels “appear” on the correct channels.

Not only would it make sense, less hardware they would have to maintain. Less power consumption for the consumers (you can NOT turn these DTA’s off, there is no power button, and if you have the DTA off for a while supposedly you have to reactivate it?) . It would also be less confusing for people so they don’t have yet another remote to have around the house.

So I plead with Comcast, Just make the channels in ClearQAM and stop the box madness. Because I will not pay any more money to get “real cable boxes” when you are forcing everyone to have a cable box for every tv in the house.